Monday, June 7, 2021

The Great Outdoors with Toddlers

 The Great Outdoors with Toddlers


One great way to ensure that toddlers appreciate out beautiful planet is by giving them increasingly more outdoor and wilder experiences.

I want my kids to try to leave the world better than it was. This is what I try to do, although things get hard day to day to be mindful like that. 

One way to get them motivated to save the world and to conserve the wild spaces and the plants and animals that inhabit them is to show it to them, and in time immerse them in it. 

Where the Wild Things Are

I am here to step on my soapbox and declare that you don't have to go far, from vegetable garden and the front steps to local puddles and parks, the wild things are right there. And right now, the cicadas are having some notoriety in Virginia with brood X. That's the magical thing about toddlers, if you just point out how "close" the wilderness happens to start from your front door, they will get it. 

And I am here to also say that I hate bugs, but they are a part of nature. There will not be an ecosystem that we know today that does not rely on a bug, or a bug looking creature to do something very important. It takes all kinds. 

What I love about these wild spaces, as limited as they can be at times in suburbia, is that it shows children how much we and our actions are in balance with nature. They don't have to go far. 

And unlike the zoo or farms, the creatures are free to do as they please. 

It's Harder to See Creatures in the Wild

One thing that I have taken away exploring local parks with little ones is the appreciation for little creatures and their ability to play hide and seek. 

My oldest had a hard time at seeing frogs, snakes, and turtles in the wild because their bodies blend into the background of pond, dirt, and leaves. Here is a turtle that was a lot more obvious!


I think it's a matter of safety to keep the little ones aware of what may be especially dangerous growing in the local area and how to avoid it. 

My overall goal is to eventually see most of the national parks in time as a family; however, the little ones will not get much out of it if they are not prepared to look at the details. 

For this reason, I love the different day camps and classes offered to tinker in nature and really get close to the funny creatures lurking under leaves and in shallow ponds. 

Teaching Children Outside

In fact, one of my favorite aspects of the great outdoors is showing my kids the things in real life that they normally see in books, art, toys, and movies. 

It's one thing to see a fox on a page, it's another thing to see one down the street!

One consistent theme of the Montessori method seems to be to avoid adding too much fiction to children earlier on. It is one thing to help preschool children broaden their imaginations, but it is not useful to have cartoon-like animals in baby books since they are not like that in real life. I think that by removing what kids will unlearn later on, we are saving them and ourselves trouble for later. However, following learning of the "real" animals, the books and cartoons are super enjoyable and I don't mean any harm by this delay in using them. 

Another aspect of teaching children outside is that not every animal is like it is in the books and some animal are not your friends. We as grownups avoid wasps and snakes and it is important that children learn to do likewise. 

You Don't Have to Go Far

I wanted to end this update on a note to say that you don't have to and should not go far in order to have a good time. Kids can only walk a handful of miles comfortably and this number gets much smaller with higher temperatures and hill inclines. If you wanted to conquer some personal records, it might be a good idea to leave them with a babysitter and head for the great outdoors on your own for now.

Staying close will not eliminate their sense of discovery. They will enjoy looking under rocks, lifting up leaves, and following every dead-end trail. In fact, one of the things that I enjoy is that they are easy to keep track of when they are not running around my home or the backyard, but instead concentrate on looking at a new bug or plant. It's quite nice and I don't have to carry tired kids as a result. 

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The Great Outdoors with Toddlers

  The Great Outdoors with Toddlers   One great way to ensure that toddlers appreciate out beautiful planet is by giving them increasingly mo...